Living on California’s central coast definitely has it’s advantages, especially when it comes to taking a drive to Monterey’s famous Cannery Row with the family. The area holds the rise and decline of Monterey’s fishing and canning industry (1920’s-1940’s) and was renamed Cannery Row after John Steinbeck’s novel. In the late 1960’s revitalization occurred on the old Ocean View Avenue and today once abandoned canneries have transformed into a welcoming waterfront where visitors could linger, play, and return again and again. Cannery Row offers world-class dining, shopping, and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, and is one of America’s top visitor destinations, attracting approximately four million people each year!
Sure we can just drive over for the day and take in the views, enjoy an amazing lunch, and head home that evening. But, why not make a staycation out of it and stay in one of the gorgeous hotels on the water? That’s exactly what we did recently and it was incredibly fun and gave us a different look on the historical waterfront.
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Treat your family to the luxury of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, orignially erected in 1901 as the original Tevis-Murray Estate. This location has a history to me personally as it’s restaurant was the focal point of my senior prom back in 1991 as well as my brother’s wedding overlooking the beautiful Monterey Bay marine sanctuary back in 1998. Feeling right at home the hotel offers amazing amenities in their 290 guest rooms, we enjoyed the luxurious Balestreri Suite as well as an adjoining room for our family of 5.
Plenty of space, areas to sit down to dine, televisions, wi-fi, patios with nearly 270 degrees of views, honor bars, ceiling fans in most rooms, the softest down feather beds, fleece lined robes, pillow menu for your best night’s sleep, complimentary turndown service and newspaper, and my 9 year old daughter’s favorite, the baby Grand Piano. Literally an hour just tickling the ivories and we kick ourselves for selling grandma’s piano years back. Comfort and luxury shouldn’t be overlooked just because the kids are in tow.
Views from the suite are stunning both day and night! We found Saturday evening entertainment in the Piano Lounge by the fire, cocoa for the kids and coffee or a cocktail for the adults. Offer your request, and when they played mine, I gave back by way of gratuity.Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen and Bar on property offers beautiful morning views for breakfast and so many great traditional and seafood choices bakery options, and a special children’s menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can dine in the main room with open exhibition kitchen or outside.Don’t forget to pamper yourself, Vista Blue Spa is a full service spa and one of Travel & Leisure’s TOP 25 Spas and has been named Conde Nast’s TOP 75 Hotel Spas in North America three times consecutively! Have dad take the kids for a walk down the row while you get a massage you really need!
The Fish Hopper
If it’s seafood you seek, look to The Fish Hopper for some flavors and offerings that are out of this world! Just a short 5-7 minute walk from the Monterey Plaza Hotel, you’ll find this restaurant serves sustainable, environmentally responsible seafood caught and shipped in fresh daily! Though locals, this spot was new to us and we started our meal off with some sodas and exotic libations for mom and dad. The Hawaiian Breeze and the Hopper Berry Lemonade got our palates excited for the appetizer to come. The appetizer was a medley of artichoke hearts, deep fried calamari, and crab cakes. The crab cakes were served with a side of mango papaya relish that combined with my cocktail just gave me a feel of the islands and that’s never a bad thing!More mango papaya relish accompanied the skirt steak my husband ordered while I enjoyed crab meat stuffed prawns over lobster ravioli. I can’t express the flavor combinations and how well prepared the prawns were but the sauce was silky and rich and I crave that dinner now weeks later!
My son ordered the free range chicken breast served with artichoke hearts (his first), mushrooms, spinach, tomato, and Yukon potatoes. This is normally my go-to dish, but I was so happy to try some great new dishes and also that I could share with my son. My girls are picky eaters so they had a cheeseburger and hot dog from the kid’s menu. I try not to give them a bad time since I too was picky at that age and now eat just about everything minus raw meats or fish.
You can find American, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican restaurants on Cannery Row plus pubs, many dessert venues and a wine bistro showcases many wonderful local wines!
Adventures By the Sea
Activities around Cannery Row include kayaking, bicycling, paddleboards, snorkeling, or renting a surrey bike. I’m sure you’ve seen families or couples riding the surrey bikes through the area along the same walking/jogging path. Another first for us locals was renting one for the five of us. Five locations of the Adventures by the Sea company offer pick-up spots for the various activities and we started right in Cannery Row and loaded into the larger surrey. Luckily our youngest is small, we fit her between my husband and I in the front row with the teens in the back. With pedals for four and one main person to steer we were off on the path with boundaries of Lover’s Point and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Winter in Monterey can be one of the most gorgeous as you can see most of us are in shorts and short sleeves! The cruise along the path is generally flat with minimal elevation, this is good because with the weight of the five of us over 400 + pounds it’s a workout! By the time we made it to Lover’s Point (with another rental area) we were pooped and took a break in the sand for about 25 minutes! The ride back was fun as we all took turns steering and doing the majority of the pedaling. We’ve already decided it was really fun but we’re going to try kayaking on our next trip!
Highway 1 Golf, Monterey Mirror Maze, & Lazer Vault
I’m going to admit that my husband and I can be truly competitive in some activities. One is bowling and another is mini golf! Highway 1 Golf, Games & Grub will have families competing indoors by black light and 3D glasses in a cool Pacific Coast Highway course. The themed murals, one of a kind motion greens and obstacles will have you bringing out your inner competitor and wanting to play a second game right away. Especially if you came in second.
The Mirror Maze was a huge hit, my husband and I were shocked how twisted and turned around we got walking through with the lights going on and off, changing color as the music played loudly. It’s strange how quickly your mind gets confused and suddenly you’re lost! For one price, you can re-enter the maze again and again and my son seemed to find his way out in record speed each time. I don’t even remember him going by us!My youngest daughter and husband were addicted to the Lazer Maze. They channeled their inner ninja and the Mission Impossible theme song kept playing over and over in my head. Once they got the hang of it, it was a race to break their record time. They jumped, crawled, slithered through a web of security beams all while we watch outside on the video monitor. Each time they came out we cheered and their time and rank of fellow players appeared on the screen.
Our after activities snack/lunch was a stop at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate shop which kept smiles on everyone’s face as we packed up and headed home from our staycation. All activities (minus Ghirardelli) were completely new to us although we’ve lived on the central coast all our lives. With open minds and a little planning we can venture back for another weekend on Cannery Row with a new itinerary that is just as amazing! For more information, visit http://www.canneryrow.com/index.php to enjoy a fun weekend on Cannery Row with the kids!
Our activities, one meal, and accommodations were hosted, other meals and gratuities were on our own. All opinions are 100% our honest experience.